Edward J. Hughes, Proust, Class & Nation
Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2011.
Présentation de l'éditeur :
As an extended textual construction, first conceived of in 1908 and the last tranche of which reached its reading public almost two decades later, A la recherche du temps perdu was being written against a backdrop of momentous historical events in France. This book seeks to establish the nature of Proust’s engagement with many of the social and national issues of the day, from his early public campaigning, pre-1908, first as a Dreyfusard and then as an opponent of the separation of Church and State in 1905, through to the mature writer’s reflection, channelled through his novel, on key ideological issues: the new patterns of leisure and social mobility, the First World War and xenophobic nationalism, and continuing evidence of class-based politics in the immediate post-war period. By reconstructing attitudes to class and nation as articulated not just by Proust but by his contemporaries (Bourget, Barrès, Daniel Halévy, Benda, and others), the book attempts to gauge his volatile responses to these issues. In this regard, A la recherche functions as a capacious warehouse in which antagonistic social attitudes are voiced and tested, often, crucially, in ironic, ambivalent ways by Proust’s Narrator and characters. Analysis of the incremental composition of the novel further helps reveal the multiple styles of response to social antagonism that Proust’s work throws up. What emerges is a complex image of Proust as a free-floating iconoclast and radical commentator, a social conservative and fitful defender of class hierarchy, and a writer who, as Theodor Adorno observed, resisted social-class compartmentalization.
Edward J. Hughes, is Professor of French, Queen Mary, University of London